This chemotherapy drug is used to treat cancers of the breast, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum, head and neck. It is given through an IV or infusion. The amount and schedule can vary from several hours to several weeks. 5-FU is also known as Adrucil, Efudex or Fluoroplex.
5-FU is often given with leucovorin (also called folinic acid), which increases efficacy. Due to a national shortage of leucovorin, a similar drug called levo-leucovorin may be used instead.
Common Side Effects
- Loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Taste changes, metallic taste in mouth during infusion
- Risk of infection
- Hair thinning or loss
An important question to ask your doctor before beginning a 5-FU regimen is, “Am I DPD deficient?”
DPD deficiency – when severe – is often diagnosed in infancy, however less severe cases can go unnoticed until an individual is given 5-FU or capecitabine (Xeloda). A DPD deficiency means you cannot breakdown the 5-FU or capecitabine. These drugs can build up to a toxic level, and if untreated, can result in death. Learn more.